Non-Surgical Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment

Almost 50% of all work-related injuries are associated in some way with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) – resulting in the highest number of days lost among all work related injuries. In fact, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, almost half of the carpal tunnel cases result in 31 days or more of work loss.

More than 8 million Americans suffer from CTS.  If you are one of the thousands of individuals who are experiencing pain, numbness, and weakness in the wrist and hand, there is a good chance you too may be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. In our previous two articles we discussed the surgical treatments that are available for carpal tunnel syndrome.  But, when identified and treated early in its progression, many patients with carpal tunnel syndrome can be treated with physical therapy and occupational therapy rather than surgery.

Non-Surgical Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment

Although carpal tunnel surgery may be necessary when the symptoms are severe, early intervention with physical therapy (“P.T.”) can help avoid the need for surgical intervention in many cases.

Remember that treating carpal tunnel syndrome as early as possible after your symptoms start is your best bet for keeping the condition from advancing to the point where you need surgery.

If you have been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and do not get it treated, it can last a long time and will typically get considerably worse – eventually making it impossible to work and typically requiring surgery.

Physical Therapy vs Surgery for Carpal Tunnel?

In a study published by the Journal of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy in 2017, evidence indicated that physical therapy was as effective as surgery at treating carpal tunnel syndrome in cases of early intervention. Those researchers found that after one year, those patients who had physical therapy (focusing on manual therapy of the neck and median nerve, combined with stretching exercises) had outcomes similar to those of patients who had surgery.

Additionally, the physical therapy patients showed faster improvement at the one month mark than those patients who had carpal tunnel surgery.

As a further consideration, more than a third of patients who have carpal tunnel surgery do not return to work within 8 weeks after their operation. So, physical therapy may have the advantage of offering less time off of work.

Physical Therapy for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

At Macomb Hand Surgery, we offer physical therapy, occupational therapy and rehabilitation for carpal tunnel – in addition to surgical intervention when necessary.

Sheila Malone, BS, OTR is a certified occupational therapist with over twenty years of experience in hand and wrist therapy. Michelle Schneider, BS, OTR/L, CHT is a certified hand therapist (CHT) with extensive training and more than ten years of experience in occupational/hand therapy. Doctor Rehman works closely with our skilled and caring physical and occupational therapists to develop a customized treatment plan for each patient.

Read More about Our Hand Therapists HERE.

Physical therapy for carpal tunnel syndrome that is focused on manual therapy of the neck and median nerve, combined with stretching exercises, can be extremely successful.

5 Types of Physical Therapy for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

#1. Massage Therapy for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Massage therapy for carpal tunnel syndrome” incorporates five primary techniques: compression, cross-fiber function, deep tissue work, stretching, and trigger point. Massage therapy for CPT can reduce pain, increase grip strength, and improve muscle flexibility.

2. Stretching Exercises for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Several stretching techniques, under the supervision of a licensed and experienced physical therapist are an important component of CTS treatment. Once the patient is taught the proper stretching exercises by their physical therapist, the exercises can be performed at home to maintain improvement in pain, grip strength and flexibility.

3. Strength Training for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome weakens hand strength, eventually making gripping objects painful if not impossible.  Hand strengthening involves squeezing exercises – which are most effective when continued at home three times daily.

4. Movement Exercises for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

“Tendon Gliding” and “Nerve Gliding” are physical therapy movements that can also improve symptoms of CTS. These exercises consist of moving parts of the hand and wrist into many positions.

5. Heat & Ice for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Immersing affected hands into water that is between 92 and 100 degrees while moving the hand and wrist around underwater can help. This can be alternated with icing or soaking the wrist in an ice bath for 10 minutes to 15 minutes once or twice an hour. Your physical therapist will help you determine the hot/cold therapy that is best for your CTS.

Non-Surgical Physical Therapy for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

If you are suffering from the pain, numbness and tingling of carpal tunnel syndrome, physical therapy offers strong evidence-based treatment options to help you recover – without the potential downtime or side effects of surgery.

Call us today for an appointment and evaluation with Doctor Rehman, and she will help you determine if trying physical therapy first is a good option for you.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Physical Therapy: 248.335.2638